- Existence: 1939 - 2004
Edward Francis Paschke (1939-2004) was an American painter and educator. He was one of Chicago’s most famous 20th century artists and was internationally known. The child of Polish immigrants, he lived most of his life in Chicago, Illinois, and showed an interest in cartoons and animation from a very young age. He attended the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, receiving his Bachelor of Fine Arts in 1961, and also a Master of Fine Arts in 1970. He married Nancy Cohen in 1968 and the couple had two children: Marc and Sharon. Paschke taught at Northwestern University in the Art Theory and Practice department for over 26 years starting in 1978, serving many times as the department chair. Throughout his academic career he consistently chose to teach introductory-level classes, which was abnormal for a professor/artist of his stature, as he enjoyed the energy and ideas of non-art majors. He was an involved and accessible professor, well-loved by students and colleagues, and was very active in Chicago-area philanthropy, cultural events, and young artist mentorship.
Paschke first started showing his work at the Hyde Park Art Center on the South Side of Chicago in the late 1960s, with a collective known as the “Hairy Who.” He later became affiliated with a group of artists termed the Chicago Imagists, but retained a unique and instantly recognizable style. Paschke’s work is often described as confrontational and utilizes bright, neon colors and multiple figurative elements. He borrows imagery from pop culture, such as celebrity portraits and commercial graphic art, and uses it to create surreal, emotional landscapes that evoke the violent, sinister, and sexually charged undercurrents of the human experience.
His paintings function as an interactive exploration of the human condition, and require a viewer to react to the imagery, tie in their own emotions and associations, and “complete the circuit,” as Paschke said many times. He was always interested in the relationship between personal identities and public personae, and in the ways that the lens of mass media amplifies and distorts that relationship. His stylistic motifs and source material influences kept pace with technological and cultural advances, moving from print, to television, to video, and finally to digital media. His subject matter was often the people on the fringes of society; outsiders such as circus “freaks,” street hustlers, strippers, and criminals. He was a quintessentially urban artist who was intrigued by the rhythmic pulse and diversity of cityscapes.
His work has been exhibited extensively in the United States and Europe and his paintings are held in many major museum collections around the world. In 1989 a major retrospective of his work was sponsored by the Art Institute of Chicago (AIC) and was shown at the Pompidou Centre in Paris and the Dallas Museum of Art before returning to AIC. He also created illustrations and graphic design for many publications over decades, most notably for Playboy. Paschke died in his home of suspected heart failure on November 25, 2004.